It was a familiar setting with a similar result, despite the Tampa Bay Storm attempting to start with a fresh slate as it faced the Jacksonville Sharks for the first round of the playoffs, tonight at Jacksonville Veterans Memorial Arena. Despite holding the lead for a majority of the game, the Storm were defeated 69-62 tonight after fizzling in the final seconds of play.
The game began just how the Storm hoped, with momentum in their favor and staying neck-and-neck with the Sharks. Tampa Bay, who had the first possession of the game, and Jacksonville exchanged multiple scores in the first quarter. The Storm would have the 14-13 edge after the first 15 minutes of play.
In the second quarter, the game would continue to fall in Tampa Bay’s favor, as its drive began with a touchdown and was followed by a Jacksonville turnover. Sharks’ quarterback Bernard Morris was sacked by the Storm’s Demarcus Tyler for a loss of seven yards. The ball was in turn recovered by Tampa Bay, but then returned to the Sharks just minutes later when Tracy Belton intercepted a ball from Boyd.
Morris finished the night going 28-for-37, good for 266 yards and six touchdowns. The Jacksonville signal caller also threw one interception and was sacked three times.
Tampa Bay shutdown Jacksonville for the remainder of the half, and added one more tally as Storm quarterback Boyd went on to end the first 30 minutes of play with a four-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Joe Hills, for the 27-13 go-ahead score.
Boyd finished the night completing 17-of-33 passes good for 282 yards, while throwing seven touchdowns and running for one more.
With Tampa Bay ahead and the crowd silenced the Storm found itself in unfamiliar territory for the first time this season.
Tampa Bay continued to add on to its lead, by forcing another fumble and scoring on the recovery. The Sharks gained their footing however and would return to form by continuing to exchange points in the third. Jacksonville also scored back-to-back touchdowns for the first time in the game in a matter of less than four minutes.
Tying the game with an 11-yard touchdown pass to Jeron Harvey, Morris helped the Sharks keep pace with the Storm, but Tampa Bay’s offensive miscues eventually cost them the game.
Jacksonville scored the go-ahead touchdown when the Storm fumbled the ball with just four seconds remaining in the game. The Storm had one last chance to score on the kickoff, but would come up just short, ending its 2013 Arena Football playoff run early.
The loss eliminated the Storm from playoff contention, finishing the season with a 7-11, 0-1 record in 2013.